THE popular San Antonio festival is being staged in Valencia this weekend, culminating with Tuesday’s blessing of animals.

San Antonio Abad became the patron saint of animals after building up a reputation of caring and helping them.

He was born in Egypt in 251 AD and was involved in miracles involved with animals, which included curing the blindness of baby piglets.

That led to many depictions of him that had pigs at his feet.

Commemorations San Antonio started in Valencia and other parts of Spain in the late eighteenth century.

Over the years, owners have bought their animals – from dogs and horses to more exotic animals such as ferrets, turtles and parrots – to be blessed by three priests in Valencia with an olive branch. 

The festival started with a fair that opened on Friday night and also features a giant bonfire in honour of San Antonio which has been listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s largest bonfire. 

San Antonifestival Calendar Of January 2020 3
The bonfire during Valencia’s San Antoni festival. Photo: creative commons on flickr

The fiesta goes back to the 18th century where farmers would ride their horses to the convent that was built by San Antonio Abad church on Calle Sagunto in Valencia.

They would then ride their horses around an ancient olive tree, decorating their animals with a twig from the tree to protect them from evil in the year ahead. 

A range of activities are being held over the next few days leading up to Tuesday, when the parish church of San Antonio Abad holds a special mass at 10.00 am to celebrate its patron saint.

That’s followed at 11.15 am by the blessing of animals and a special parade including cavalry units from the Policia Nacional and Guardia Civil.

There’ll also be a release of pigeons by the Falleres Mayores de Valencia 2023.

Similar events are taking place in Spain across the weekend and up to Tuesday’s San Antonio Day.

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